Educate Yourself on Identity TheftOne of the best ways to protect yourself from being a victim of ID theft is to understand how the crime works and to recognize early on if you are a victim of ID theft. You can learn lots of information on ID theft by visiting the FTC website (Federal Trade Commission) or other organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Protection Agency that can educate you on the intricacies and alert you on immediate dangers regarding ID theft.
Avoid Phishing ScamsID theft usually occurs online by hackers trying to lure consumers to give them their personal or financial information. Usually, the hacker will act as an authority, either your credit card company, your bank, common Internet services such as eBay or Paypal, or the government (Social Security Administration or the IRS). Usually the hacker will send out an email that looks legitimate coming from one of the above organizations. It will look extremely similar or exactly like it is from the organization. Usually it will state that your attention is needed immediately and that you must update your personal information. Inside the email will be a hyperlink that the message will ask you to click. However the hyperlink does not go to the actual site, instead it goes to a hacker database that illegally collects your personal or financial information and then uses it fraudulently.
One of the ways to avoid all phishing scams is to never offer any personal or financial information via a hyperlink in an email. If you think the email is valid, close the email and contact the company directly either through their web site or via telephone. There will usually be a message when you log into your account if there is a problem or if any additional information is needed.
Protect Your Credit Cards and IdentityIdentity theft can also occur in the real world, usually by your wallet or purse being stolen. While it is impractical not to carry your important documents around with you, usually ID theft will occur when someone steals your purse or wallet. They have access to all your information and then can use your credit cards, debit cards or try to open up a new credit card without your knowledge. If you lose or have your wallet or purse stolen it is extremely important to contact your credit card companies as soon as possible, along with your local police department to create a police report.
In addition, you should always contact the three major credit bureaus (Trans Union, Experian and Equifax). These three credit bureaus collect information about your financial transactions and report it to banks. They are responsible for scoring your credit history. Having a good credit score is essential to getting a mortgage, loans and credit cards. It is important to contact them and tell them immediately that your ID was stolen. They will flag your account so that only you can open up any new credit cards or take out any new loans.
Shred Your Important DocumentsIf you are throwing out your credit card bills or receipts or any documents that have your identity clearly stated, make sure you first shred these documents. Many times identity theft occurs when you leave a receipt at a store or throw out lots of documents that can be picked up by anyone from the garbage. In fact, many ID thefts occur from criminals stealing your garbage. Befre you throw out any documents with your personal or financial information, shred it first.
Request Your Credit Report RegularlyOne of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft, as well as find out if you are a victim of identity theft is to request your credit report on a regular basis. You should request your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies (Trans Union, Experian and Equifax) each year or even every 6 months. You can immediately look through your credit report to determine if any new credit cards or loans have been taken out without your knowledge. If identity theft has occurred, you can immediately contact the bank, police and credit reporting agencies, which can help you stop this theft and return your credit back to its original state.
Remember, identity theft can happen to anyone. No one is immune to identity theft, however if you follow the above tips, you can definitely reduce the risks of identity theft happening to you or stop identity theft that is currently occurring.
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